Things That Matter

New U.S Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, the Chicano’s Literary Rock Star

On Wednesday morning, Herrera became U.S. poet laureate for his prolific countless poems and inspirational work as an educator – but writing poems isn’t the only thing this Chicano can do. He’s a rockstar, actor, master bird-caller and so much more…

He’s the first Chicano to achieve this honor. And it’s kind of a big deal.

Juan Felipe Herrera
Credit: Juan Felipe Herrera / Facebook

No Latino has ever received this high-level title and it doesn’t get any higher than this. Other poets who’ve received this honor include the great Robert Frost and Philip Levine.

His mother’s singing helped him fall in love with poetry.

Thousands of Embraces
Credit: The Root of a THousand Embraces / Amazon

The songs that inspired him the most were about the Mexican Revolution – of all things. If she could see how far he’s come, “my mother would be so happy. She’d be clapping. Maybe crying. And dancing.”

Bird calling is one of his secret talents.

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Credit: Juan Felipe Herrera / Facebook

As told in his children’s book Calling the Doves, he tells how his dad taught him how to master the art so perfectly by whistling into his hands, doves would fly right in.

As the son of migrant workers, one of his biggest passions is immigration.

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Credit: Juan Felipe Herrera / Facebook

His parents came from Mexico after the Mexican Revolution of 1910 in search of the American Dream. During his youth, his family moved from tents to trailers, “crop to crop, field to field” so his parents could sustain work as field workers.

Walt Whitman is one of his biggest inspirations.

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Credit: Juan Felipe Herrera / Facebook

Like Breaking Bad‘s Walter White who kept Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass in his bathroom, Juan Felipe Herrera also drew inspiration from Whitman’s works. Among his other inspirations were César Vallejo and Picasso.

He was punished for not being fluent in English. Then proved the haters wrong.

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Credit: Juan Felipe Herrera / Facebook

He recalls being punished in the first grade for not speaking perfect English. Fast-forward a few years and he went on to get degrees from UCLA and Stanford – and later become the U.S. Poet Laureate. How’s that for fluency?

His books of poetry resonate with audiences of all ages.

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Credit: Juan Felipe Herrera / Facebook

He’s published over two dozen books with poems that swing between English and Spanish.

Easy to see why. His words and enthusiasm are contagious.

Credit: UCR MFA Program / YouTube

Herrera told the Washington Post that he believes poetry “is a way to attain a life without borders.”

The acting bug bit him in the late 60s.

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Credit: Juan Felipe Herrera / Facebook

He attended UCLA, being amongst the first to receive an Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) scholarship. There he was influenced by the likes of Allen Ginsberg and Luis Valdez and began performing in experimental theatre.

So did the music bug.

Credit: USC Libraries / YouTube

He likes to plays some sick licks to accompany his poems.

As you can see, his words transcend into all genres, including musicals.

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Credit: Juan Felipe Herrera / Facebook

His popular children’s book The Upside Down Boy was adapted into a musical and has published award-winning fiction.

Artistic talent runs in the family.

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Credit: Juan Felipe Herrera / Facebook

His uncle Roberto is an actor, community organizer, radio host and comedic theatre performer. His other uncle was a muralist and painter. His dad founded this church in Mesquite, New Mexico in the early 1930s.

Oh, and he’s just like us.

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Credit: Juan Felipe Herrera / Facebook

Herrera loves to share pictures of food…especially chiles.

Who’s your favorite Latino poet? Leave a comment below to let us know.

Latino Bookstore In North Carolina Faces Very Uncertain Future Just 6 Months After Opening

Things That Matter

Latino Bookstore In North Carolina Faces Very Uncertain Future Just 6 Months After Opening

epiloguebooksch / Instagram

Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews is a relatively new bookstore in Chapel Hill, North Carolina that is facing a very uncertain future. The Latino-owned bookstore opened its doors to the Chapel Hill community six months ago and now COVID-19 is putting their future at risk.

Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews is a Latino-owned bookstore in North Carolina that is fighting to survive COVID-19.

Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews came from a need that the owners saw in downtown Chapel Hill. A bookshop had recently closed in the area so Jamie and Miranda Sanchez knew that it was time for them to help fill that sudden loss.

“We felt like there was a big hole in downtown,” Jaime told The Daily Tar Heel. “A bookshop creates this whole sense of community for the town so we decided to go forward and try to open our own bookstore.”

The bookstore was serving a community that needed a place to gather and discuss ideas after a former bookstore closed its doors.

“The core of our idea began years ago as the union of Jaime’s heritage and Miranda’s passion for writing and the transportive nature of reading. Wanderers and wonderers, our idea continued to grow in the plazuelas of Mexico and the chocolaterías of Spain, in the plazas of every country where such spaces form quasi-families for both the briefest of moments and the longest stretches of time,” reads the bookstore’s website. “In these spaces, people share everything from decadent chocolate to fried street food, to myth-like tales, to the memories of our own childhood selves chasing pigeons and sucking the sticky droplets from paletas off our hands.”

While the bookstore was well received by the community, the COVID-19 pandemic had other plans.

COVID-19 has swept through the U.S. and the number of cases continues to climb. While New York might be seeing fewer cases, the rest of the U.S. is in an uptick. The virus has forced businesses across the country to close or retool to be online only. That is what Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews did to make sure they can weather the storm.

The owners of the bookstore realized they needed to retool their business strategy when students stopped coming back from Spring Break.

“We started adjusting our plans in early March to accommodate for the new lack of traffic,” Jaime told NBC News. “Students weren’t coming back from spring break, so we had originally thought the locals would come out like they did during winter break to take advantage of the lack of downtown traffic, but that obviously didn’t happen because of coronavirus, so we started getting ready to adjust and pivot online for when we’d no longer be able to sustain brick and mortar operations.”

The Sanchezes are keeping their literary dream alive through the pandemic.

“Jaime’s always wanted to open a business and bring a piece of home to it,” Miranda, who is originally from Tijuana, told NBC News. “We felt that continuing that tradition of having a bookstore in the area would be a good mesh, not just of who we are as people but how we want to engage with our community. A community that works to sustain an independent bookshop has certain values.”

Independent bookstores are one of the hardest-hit businesses since readings and events in the spaces have been canceled.

Bookshop started to help struggling independent bookstores weather the storm. COVID-19 has left millions of people without jobs and businesses are having to close permanently because of the virus. Bookshop is giving independent bookstores a chance to survive the closures and social distancing.

Bookstores serve a vital role in communities. They give people a place to gather and share ideas. The easy access to literature can change the lives of children in underprivileged communities but allowing them to see themselves reflected in new lights. They also serve as a place to explore the world around you by flipping open a book cover.

If you have time on your hands and enjoy reading, check out Bookshop and build up that 2020 reading list.

READ: Celebrities Are Reading Children’s Books To Help Parents And Children Cope With COVID-19

Malia And Sasha Obama Speak About Their Mother Michelle Obama’s Success In Netflix Doc ‘Becoming’

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Malia And Sasha Obama Speak About Their Mother Michelle Obama’s Success In Netflix Doc ‘Becoming’

michelleobama/ Instagram

It’s been a little over three years since Michelle and Barack Obama left the White House and yet, we’re still begging for four more years! (It’s no wonder with our current White House situation.)

While Michelle Obama has been open about her disinterest in taking up the mantle of the Oval Office herself, she hasn’t shied away about her desire to continue to lead. In November 13, 2018, Obama published her book Becoming, a memoir that takes readers on a deeply personal tour of her roots, her discovery of herself, her time in the White House, and the public eye, as well as her role as a mother as well.  

And while Obama has been open about her experience with motherhood, her two daughters, Malia and Sasha, have largely stayed clear of the limelight and conversations about their famous parents.

There’s no denying that the two former first daughters spent some of the most formative years of their lives in the White House. For eight years the two sisters watched their parents lead the country and while they’ve remained largely private about their lives, they both make surprise appearances in the new Netflix documentary “Becoming.”

“Becoming,” follows Michelle Obama’s journey as the author of her wildly successful memoir of the same name debuts May 6 and according to E! News gives viewers a rare glimpse into the lives her daughters.

According to E! News Sasha appears to praise her mother’s hard work and vigor saying “I’m excited for her to be proud of what she’s done, because I think that that’s the most important thing for a human to do, is be proud of themselves.”

Malia also makes an appearance and expresses her joy at her mother being able to come into her own thanks to a lack of public attention. “Being able to let all that leave your mind, creates so much more space,” Malia explains.

In the documentary, Malia notes that despite her mother’s absence from the White House many continue to push for the messages and values she campaigned for.

“This has demonstrated, in a way, just like, d*mn, those eight years weren’t for nothing, you know?”Malia points out in the doc. “You see that huge crowd out there? And that last speech you gave.”

And her daughter is right. The success of her mother’s book, which includes 10 million copies sold, is just a one proving factor that the excitement and passion for Michelle Obama as an influence continues.